The month of IBC is often a time of change and looking forward to the future, looking back at another Ramadan passed helps suggest what may lie ahead It is, of course, traditionally the highlight of the year for television content and advertisers, and it often seems to be a case of déjà vu, but […]
It is, of course, traditionally the highlight of the year for television content and advertisers, and it often seems to be a case of déjà vu, but I believe this Ramadan has shown some undercurrents, which tell us of different tides to come.
At the time of writing were still analysing the mass of data but here are five quick takeaways from Ramadan 2013.
1 New content, uncertain viewers
Apart from MBC1 putting a lock on the top spot from day 1, there was no clear trend, which is itself unusual.
Several people said to me that content seemed to move away from the big, historical dramas seen in recent years and towards more contemporary settings and themes. Draw your own conclusions about how this reflects the current context of the region.
However, without such clear direction it took a while for audiences to work out what they wanted to watch. Even the top programmes didnt dominate every day and the ratings fluctuated quite a lot over the period.
The top overall programme Etr Al Ghannah averaged 71,000 viewers per episode, but that would only have secured fifth spot last Ramadan.
Some established favourites like Shabayet Al Carton and Freej did well but were not the unstoppable forces that they have been in the past. Runaway 2012 winner Shabayet could manage only fifth this year, and with a reduction of nearly 50,000 viewers per episode.
2 Now thats funny
One thing which was very clear was a division in tastes between Emirati and Arab expat audiences.
The Emirati audience went for comedy six of the top ten programmes were animations or comedies such as Shabayet Al Carton, Freej, Wi Fi and Sah Sah.
All of these did well among Arab expats but only three of the top ten were comedies, with expats watching a lot more drama.
This brings me to what I could call the surprise package of Ramadan, which was Abu Dhabi Al Oula, finishing a strong third behind MBC1 and MBC Drama among all Arabs. Their Syrian-set drama Al Wiladah Mn Alkhasirah was a very close second in Arab expat programmes.
In the interests of disclosure, Ill mention that Abu Dhabi Media is a shareholder of EMMC. Nevertheless for a channel that has been struggling to enter the top five channels most of the year to storm up so strongly during Ramadan is something I think is worthy of comment. In fact, the main reason I mention it is not only to praise ADM but to highlight a mantra I keep trying to instill in this market People watch content, not channels.
Against the received wisdom, we noticed that actually, viewing did not increase dramatically during Ramadan 2013. Certainly, the viewing becomes more concentrated in the evening but in terms of total hours, it didnt change a great deal.
Arab Expats, for example, watched about 7.4 hours each day, but typically they watch a little over 7 hours outside of Ramadan, anyway. Emiratis watched slightly less at about 6.1 hours and thats almost unchanged for other months.
I have no scientific way of knowing, but I dont think this is due to competition from other screens. The evidence from studies in other markets is that tablets and mobile devices complement television, not replace it, so theres no reason to think we are any different.
Ultimately, there are only so many hours in the day, and our viewing is already higher than many other markets.
Its not all different
Early in Ramadan, I mentioned to someone that MBC2 was doing well, and was scornfully told there must be something wrong because nobody watches movies. The trouble is that people judge general behaviour through themselves or their immediate circle.
Yes, we know that drama and cartoons are popular during Ramadan, but there is certainly a segment of the population which doesnt want to change their viewing behaviour for the month.
For Arab expats, there are two movies in the top 20 programmes over the whole month and for Emiratis, there are four movies. MBC2 is the seventh ranked channel in the categories all Arabs and all households (which includes other nationalities), and was second overall. Not bad going for something nobody watches?
As always, it comes down to advertising.The mix of advertisers was fairly similar to previous Ramadan periods. Some
names changed Zain replaced Mobily as the top advertiser but otherwise, it was food and beverages with Pepsi as the most prominent as well as telecoms and consumers goods, especially technology.
Its hard to say if it is a trend and if it is, then I would like to think tview had something to do with it the top advertisers seem to have run fewer spots this Ramadan but placed them more effectively.
Last year, the top 10 had 63,590 insertions to achieve 24,672 ratings points, while this year, it was 49,646 insertions to achieve 20,980 points. So thats a ratio of .388 per spot in 2012 against .423 in 2013, an improvement of nearly 9%.
That sounds very technical but in terms of what it means for viewers, they see fewer ad spots so they will be happy, but the advertisers can also be happy that they got more value for their advertising dollars.
So there we have Ramadan 2013. Some welcome improvements in advertising,
although, I have no data how that reflected on the revenues. It was also a time of change in content and one that viewers seem to have been unsure about. But was that negativity or simply uncertainty? Over to the qualitative research lot.
Christopher OHearn is GM of Emirates Media Measurement Company, which has rolled out tview, the UAEs television ratings and audience measurement system and the first in the Middle East.